Digital transformation

PSE365: Digital councils helping transform public services

Digital transformation is helping councils to improve public services and become more efficient was the key message from PSE365’s Digital Transformation: Transforming the Public Sector event.

In her keynote speech, London Borough of Redbridge Council’s Cabinet Member for Transformation and Digital, Councillor Helen Coomb said: “By improving our digital channels, it frees up time for our most vulnerable residents.”

During her address, she spoke of local authorities facing a 60% reduction in funding, but acknowledged “that’s something we have to manage”.

She spoke of Redbridge Council’s community hubs that are located across the borough, whose aims are to enhance and improve the quality of services for local people
.

The integrated facilities aims to become the centre of civic and community life in their respective neighbourhoods, with locally-focused council services being delivered side by side with a variety of other possible services, such as a library, leisure centre, GP surgery, police or children’s centre.

Councillor Coomb spoke of the council’s aim to improve the digital skills of council staff and said “we have a duty to promote skills amongst our own staff”.

With digital transformation having a positive effect on council services in the London Borough of Redbridge, she said “we’re changing the world one form at a time”.

Taking part in the leaders’ debate ‘Driving Efficiency through Technology
’ was the Leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council, Councillor Drew Mellor, who is also the authority’s Portfolio Holder for Finance and Transformation,.

He spoke of the merger of the three separate councils of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole in April 2019 to become BCP Council and said that the new authority was a “significant transformation project”.

Despite challenging budgets, Councillor Mellor said that that BCP Council is investing £40m in digital transformation over the next four years, which will result in savings of £45m a year and improve efficiency.

Councillor Mellor acknowledged that councils “haven’t moved forward as quickly as our more contemporary colleagues” in digital transformation, but said: “We are a digital council, we believe we can deliver better services from it.”

He said that understanding the council’s customer, the resident, is vitally important and said that this can be done by using technology, such as CRM systems, as well as conducting surveys, which will “provide a better service, while being more efficient as well”.

Councillor Mellor also said that building confidence internally with council officers and externally with residents is the key to designing, developing and implementing solutions to achieve digital transformation in the public sector.

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As central government aims for the UK to be net zero by 2050, councils around the country make plans for how to reduce emissions. This episode’s guest, Oldham’s Councillor Abdul Jabbar outlines the importance of coming together to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint, the benefits of achieving net zero, and how Oldham Council are working to do just that.
 

Touching on the role that the public sector can play in sustainability, Cllr Jabbar said:
 

“I think it’s really important that the public sector gives true leadership in this space. I think something like one third of the carbon emissions in the country come from the public sector, so obviously we’re a big polluter in terms of the emissions.”
 

Councillor Jabbar also spoke about challenges being faced by organisations:
 

“I think the biggest one has been finance. Clearly the local government sector in particular has had its grants cut from central government by a huge amount and that’s had a very big impact in terms of our plans to take forward projects in relation to climate change, so that’s a major issue.”
 

To hear what Cllr Jabbar has to say about the mission to achieve net zero carbon emissions, listen to the latest episode of the Public Sector Executive Podcast.

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